“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:7-21
This is *such* a deep passage, and one one that could probably be read a hundred times and still have meaning yet to grasp . The word “Love” is used twenty-six times in just fourteen verses, and it’s obvious that John is trying to make a point here.
Love is one of those abstract concepts that is widely used in our society. I know because I overuse it myself. When designing my website I deliberately opted for a little heart icon instead of a thumbs up on posts and comments… because why “like” puppies when you can “love” them? 😉 Like any term or symbol, however, when it becomes widespread it often loses depth of meaning. Since love is such a very important concept here though, let’s try to remind ourselves of what it truly means.
So step back for just a minute. This is going to sound like a bunny trail, but I promise it’s related. Imagine you just started a book, and you’re only a few pages in. You’re still meeting and getting to know the characters that make up the story. If you’re anything like me it’s easy to space out during the meet-and-greet details… and then when you run into the character again later in the book you forget who this guy is and what he’s supposed to look like! Right about then is usually when I pause the story and go back to the beginning to refresh my memory on the character and his attributes.
I do my best to look at the bible in the same way. It is one consistent story from start to finish, after all. Above, I quoted first John and what he had to say about love. However, this book is over three-quarters of the way through the bible! One of my favorite ways to get a good understanding of a biblical concept is to go back and reference the first time the term it’s used. Any guesses on where this one is? On the mountain in Moriah, when Abraham was called to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:1-2
This is such a powerful place to introduce love to us. This story is all about the father/son relationship, faith, and of course, sacrifice. The Father asked Abraham to prove that he loved Him even more than his earthly family… including the son He himself had promised. He is asking Abraham to show his love through sacrifice. Not until he gets all the way to the top of the mountain, prepares the altar and binds his son, does He miraculously provide a ram as the sacrifice instead. Abraham proved his love in his willingness to sacrifice what was most precious to him.
Does this story bring another similar one to mind? It sure does for me. In fact, it brings back 1 John 4:9-10:
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Yeshua (Jesus) is OUR miraculous ram stuck in the thorns. Our Father was willing to sacrifice his only begotten son for our sins, and this is how he proved his love for us. He sacrificed what was most dear to him. This is love.
Comments welcome. To be continued in part 2… because I mistakenly thought I could somehow condense the love of God into a blog post. 😉